This was probably one of the worst decisions I have ever made as an entrepreneur or small business owner, but on June 15th 2021 I started a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gym in San Francisco.
Usually when I launch a new venture there are dreams of what it might become some day, how I could possibly conquer the world.
For Growth Jiu Jitsu, there are no dreams of a multi million dollar business. Only distant hopes of not being a ginormous money pit.
This post is both about my jiu jitsu gym, but also about the lessons of growth I have learned over the last few years.
About 3 years ago I was getting fat. Like really fat. I tried to go to the gym, and it just didn’t stick. Biking was boring. Running was boring. Lifting weights was boring.
In a desperation to reclaim control over my body, I signed up for a trial class at a local BJJ gym.
A 120 pound blue belt named Sarah proceeded to murder me mercilessly over the course of a 5 minute sparring session, and I was immediately hooked. BJJ has a way of taking away all of the bullshit you build up in your head. You can either fight, or you can’t. You can win, or you can’t.
It was an instant obsession.
And this brings me to the first lesson I learned from this martial art. Follow your obsessions.
Going to the gym isn’t a chore. It’s not something I have to hype myself up for. It’s not something I force myself to do. It’s something that I am obsessed about. This obsession drives me forwards in ways that I will never get out of simply running or biking or lifting weights.
There is a dichotomy of “do things that suck” and “follow your passion”. Both are important, but I want to highlight a real key in following your passion/obsessions.
Finding things you are obsessed about, allows you to suffer the things that suck.
I started eating better, to be better at BJJ. I started sleeping better, to be better at BJJ. I started taking the right vitamins & supplements, I started lifting weights, I started running. Finding my “why” provided me with the motivation to do the things I couldn’t bring myself to do.
I have since translated this philosophy into my professional life. I am the Head of Growth for a tech startup right now, and I am obsessed with my job. Not for money, not for the approval of my peers, but because I have the opportunity to become the best in the world at what I do.
Please forgive the “non-humble” goal, but fuck creating a goal post that is anything less than becoming the absolute best version of myself that I can be.
After dedicating 3 years of my life training 3-5x a week, I have now wracked up over 500 hours of time on the mats training BJJ. I have gone to over 5 tournaments, sparred hundreds of time during training, and now I am the blue belt that murders beginners who are much larger than me.
And still, I am a blue belt. A beginner. There is still a purple, brown, and then black belt ahead of me.
I am drastically better than new people who walk in the gym. I am drastically better than myself 3 years ago. So why is it that I am still 9 years of consistent training away from obtaining a black belt?
After all, my cousins kids got their karate black belt in 3 years, and they are 14 year olds, not a 27 year old man.
The second lesson I’ve learned from BJJ, is time. Decades of time.
People wake up early for a few weeks and think they’ve earned something. We want to “get rich fast”, to master a skill in 20 hours. Imagine what you could become if you did what you knew you needed to do. Not over the course of a month or a year or 4 years, but decade after decade after decade.
BJJ taught me that I am not hot shit. I am not good enough. I am talented, maybe even better than many others in many ways, but I am not better than the person I could become if I put in the work for 10+ years.
The competition is only against myself, the maximum potential of the person I could become if I was willing to put in the work for decades to come.
I hated the word balance for a long, long time. Once in my early twenties a therapist told me I needed more balance in my life. Stop working on my startups as much, go on a bike ride. Go hiking. Find something else to do.
I told him I have 0 interest in finding balance. I was an obsessed person who was chasing his obsessions.
The Greeks talk a lot about mastery over both the mind and the body. Personally I am a strong believer that the body is a reflection of your mind. Eventually I did find balance, but it was not by going on bike rides or spending more time with my family.
I am a human that is filled with obsessions.
To balance my obsession with work, I counter balanced it with my obsession over BJJ.
A luke warm activity will not balance out a life consuming obsession. The only way for me to split my time into different activities, was by finding pulls that are equally as strong.
So now I am obsessed with improving both my mind and body. With becoming the absolute best version of myself that I can be, in all ways. Balance.
An Unprofitable Endeavor
My jiu jitsu gym is a chance to build a community with people that I care about. To create a culture that is welcoming, friendly, and authentic. A chance to balance out my obsession with growth, to indulge in a different kind of obsession over growth.